Posted by: atowhee | January 20, 2017


Today the new regime took control in America, insulting Obama and declaring America to be a disaster zone.

For those of us who love birds, who may prefer nature to a golf course, who may like an oak grove more than a casino, who like seeing pronghorn among the sagebrush  not more cattle on irrigated grass, this is a truly sad day.  A day to raise the determination to not step aside for a vision of America that dates to the 1870s when only the will of the white man mattered across the land. This new regime brings together anti-federalists, resource exploiters, and nativists* into a putrid stew that aims to turn public lands over to those who would log, graze and burn.  This regime aims to stop federal money from supporting wildlife research or climate change research or conservation in general.  Mine, log, drill, graze…anything that will profit the privateers of our national heritage.  Make the whole nation feel like Kansas or Oklahoma.

It took only minutes for the White House to get rid of anything that acknowledges climate change.

How soon will all federal websites been censored and all evidence of climate change disappear from those federal sites? Click here for my previous blog on the question.

*This does not include true Native Americans of course.

Posted by: atowhee | January 19, 2017


The Republican Congress is now working to get rid of federal lands and turn it over to states, most of which would immediately lease it our or auction it off for land exploitation: logging, mining, drilling simply recreation at a cost to users.

If all those environmental groups I’ve supported all th4ese years don’t take this to court, they’re not getting another dime from me.

Posted by: atowhee | January 18, 2017


A night of hard rain and warm temps has turned some low-lying fields into temporary lakes or marshes.  That’s good for the those birds who enjoy such water wealth…ducks and snipe, for example.  On Hill Road west of McMinnville some Mallards and Hooded Mergansers were cruising the waves at the bottom of one farm near constant rain has made the mossy tree trunks into tiny vertical cascades.tree-dripsBaker Creek running high and muddy.bkr-crk-hiBushtits–it’s always eat and fly, never a few seconds to spare, no dawdling in their genes it the first time this year a Red-breasted Nuthatch was in our garden. Last summer they bred near enough that the parents brought youngster into the garden to learn about suet.
820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Jan 18, 2017.  13 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  1
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  X
Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)  20
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)  1
Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius)  1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  1
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  1
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  6
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  X

Posted by: atowhee | January 18, 2017


We humans are trashing our planet.  There is zero chance the next US President will know or care.  Isn’t hot weather better for golf in Scotland?  What’s not to like?

While we fiddle the planet burns:

2016 the hottest year in modern times.

We are on our way to being the last surviving primate. Gonna be lonely out here on this evolutionary limb all alone.  Of course, many less evolved humans from various fundamentalist creeds refuse to even believe in evolution.  They await a god’s good will to make everything OK, or else just bring on the End Times.

There is a heart-rending book out called Moth Storm, about the dwindling numbers of many species, even those that may never go extinct.  There is simply less life on our planet for which we humans must take all the credit.

Posted by: atowhee | January 16, 2017


The dog insisted we return to Joe Dancer Park this morning.  Who am I to quibble?  Some of the same birds today…but not far from parking lot a Hutton’s Vireo came through the trees.  He was moving deliberately and his bold wing bars were clearly sans black. It was my first vireo of the year.  All the other vireo species in this area are migrants so I shan’t see another until spring.

Two Varied Thrush appeared.  One south facing slope of blackberry brambles was warmed by sun and the spot was buzzing.  The free solar warmth had the hummers out and three males were disputing who owned the berry thicket.  One of the three was the molting male I photographed yesterday.  The other two had completely feathered gorgets.anhu-grnI have never before had a camera good enough to capture a flying hummer! Love firing salvos with my new little Canon.anhu-flyanhu-fly2WREN RUN

I seem to run into show-off wrens wherever I go these days.  Here we have Bewick on birch at Joe Dancer:bw-brchbw-brch2bw-brch3bw-brch4bw-brch5bw-brch6bw-brch7

A pair of Bewick’s parked themselves at our feeders this afternoon.  Here’s one of them:bw-chinbw-grdn-3Look closely and you can see the subtle rictal bristles at the base of the bill…and the worn tips on the tail feathers.  Click on image to make it Thrush at Joe Dancer:

vt-ad1vt-snovt-sno2War-war in the garden using the perch I recently installed.war-war-lookswarwar-eatSouth Yamhill RiveryrJoe Dancer Park, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Jan 16, 2017.  12 species

Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  3
Hutton’s Vireo (Vireo huttoni)  1
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  1
Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  3
Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius)  2
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca)  1
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  10
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  3
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  1

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Jan 16, 2017.  11 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  2
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  X
Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)  2     pair arrived together; used suet feeder
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  1
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  2
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  X
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  6
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  X

Posted by: atowhee | January 15, 2017


A British newspaper has taken a critical look at the deplorable demise of our national parks, one dying forest after another (the Sierra and other mountains are losing their pines).

Any guess about what will happen to parks during Trumptopia?  How many Trump towers exist in the parks?   How many times does Trump worry about national parks?  I suggest the answer to both is zero.  Can’t we just put a golf course on the floor of Yosemite?  Maybe a casino hanging over the edge of Grand Canyon?  Zip-lining through Zion?  Maybe we could just auction them off to Russian oligarchs and pay down the debt or buy more drones…

Posted by: atowhee | January 15, 2017


I am still collecting incidents of startling starling mimicry, since we have no thrashers hereabouts, no Song Thrush and very few Mockers (yet).  Here’s what I have so far:

Zia Fukuda



I heard a Swainson’s thrush that couldn’t have possibly been a Swainson’s thrush at this time of year.  After listening to the “weep” call several times, it was finally followed by more typical starling calls. I’ve also been fooled into thinking I have California quail here, but alas,  starlings again.


Carol Brockfield



The starlings that come to my feeders are the most easily scared off of any bird. A slight knock on the kitchen window will send them flying off. They come for suet, but will eat sunflower chips when the suet is gone. They come singly, in pairs, and sometimes by the half-dozen or more. Where I see them in bigger groups is patrolling the lawn for small bugs and don’t-know-whats.
Linda Fink



Hi Harry,

I think you were not in the area yet when I told about the most unusual starling imitation I’ve heard on our farm near Grand Ronde Agency. At the time (quite a few years ago), I was having trouble with the neighbor’s horse getting into our pasture with our horses and causing trouble. One of my mares would scream and that’s how I knew the neighbor’s horse was here again. I’d go and lead her home.

This day I was working in front of the barn when I heard the unmistakable whinny of my mare. Oh no! The neighbor’s horse was here again! But, wait… it wasn’t coming from the pasture. It was coming from above my head in the barn hay loft!! I knew there could not be a horse in the hay loft.

Yep, a starling. With a pitch perfect imitation of my mare’s whinny.



Pamela Johnson:

That’s often the tip-off, the sound is coming from overhead, like shorebirds in the trees. For example, Killdeer and yellowlegs.


I have also heard starlings imitate California Quail and Killdeer plus the European birds I mentioned in my earlier blog:


Posted by: atowhee | January 15, 2017


va-bkHe flew into the big cherry tree and froze…that’s what they do when alarmed, leave the ground and then go into a tree and pretend to disappear…in summer in their native rain forests this works pretty well…that black and orange just vanishes in dense shade, not so much in a leafless tree under bold the dog and I found this one in a neighbor’s yard, with no hope of being inconspicuous:va-in-sunlt
First garden Fox Sparrow of the year:foxyfoxy2foxy3This Fox Sparrow breeds in some damp climate north of here or in the mountains nearby.  Did you know that Fox Sparrows from dryer climes east of the Cascades can be very gray in tone?  The first time I saw one of those I was baffled about its ID, where was the chocolate brown?
Acorn Woodpecker in the colony at 13th & Michelbook.

aw-upppBig eagle.  Five feet tall, wearing snow cap.  Bet this one has never caught a fish.bigegle

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Jan 15, 2017. 13 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius)  1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  1–known locally as War-war, the warrior warbler
Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca)  1
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  20
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  1
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  2
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  6
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  X

Posted by: atowhee | January 14, 2017


The dog insisted on a walk this afternoon and she led me over to Joe Dancer Park, we birded the west end of the park then crossed under the river bridge to the open space west of Three Mile Lane viaduct.  The Pac Wrens and Varied Thrush were back under the conifers though they liked the spots where the snow was gone, or never fell.  Out in the open west of the bridge there were Bewick’s Wrens hunting in sunlight, and then my first Lincoln’s Sparrow of the year showed himself…sorta.

I saw  more Varied Thrush in two hours today than I have altogether since Labor Day.  Judging from the chatter on OBOL this current snow and cold have brought the Varied Thrush down from the north or down from the mountains, or into town from the forest floor.  Today they were in all the right places.  One passed through our garden–first this year.  Then there were more feeding on snowless patches at Joe Dancer.trsh-two2vat-in-sunMy third thrush of the day was unseen…except by my camera…as I was trying to catch a nervous little hummer.  When I went through my images later, throwing out the majority that were worthless, there sits a Hermit Thrush watching me watch the hummer.heth-hidesAnd I did finally get a shot of the hummer, whom we should call “molt face.”anhu-molt-face


Two wren species on one walk…Pacific in the forested areas, Bewick’s out in the more open area.  One even posed on the side of the bridge despite constant traffic is Pac Wren stopping in full sun in the tangle of flood detritus along the riverbank.  Below is one shot of the more typical view of the little tyke as he hopped around in the piles of trunks, limbs, leaves and is Bewick on the


I got a good short glimpse of this little guy, feeding in the tall grass on a south-facing slope…all alone.  But a picture?

I cropped this first one way down so you could at least see parts of the bird.linc-bkIn this shot below he’s looking right at the camera…see him?linc-faceHere he is, Mr. Lincoln:linc-clrer

DEER PRINT:der-prntAnd Dancer is a city park which makes for the usual manmade weirdness.  You gotta admit my dog knows how to dress for the season.  And she knows art when she smells it.
We call this fellow “Stumpy.”stumpy

Joe Dancer Park, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Jan 14, 2017 1:20 PM – 2:05 PM.  Comments:     includes open space east of Three Mile Lane bridge over South Yamhill River
11 species

Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  1     male in molt
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
Pacific Wren (Troglodytes pacificus)  2
Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)  3
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  4
Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius)  6
Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca)  4
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  7
Lincoln’s Sparrow  1

Posted by: atowhee | January 14, 2017


Starlings are not the first birds into our garden each morning.  They sleep at least an hour later than smaller birds like Juncos and House Finches.  Physics would indicate that it is harder for smaller birds to maintain body warmth in cold air because there is more surface area in relation to body mass.  So the calorie expense of keeping a chickadee or junco warm is higher per gram of body weight than it would be for a starling or a roundish duck.  When you start to consider the issue of keeping a crane or heron body warm with all that surface area and those long, exposed legs. Then the physics is beyond me, but these large, thin birds move slowly, deliberately, and can eat much larger quantities of whatever is available.  They are not limited to tiny seeds and bits of suet like a Junco or chickadee.

Starlings can be at home in many habitats and are especially comfortable in manmade landscapes.  They can work around your garden in the city, a large urban park, a farmer’s pasture, the cow yard at a dairy, the grocery store parking lot, landfills, marshes, orchards or vineyards. You may see them along the freeway’s edge or the lawns at an airport. They seem to be comfortable almost anywhere except dense forest or elevations above 6000 feet.  They don’t like true desert but appear where there is irrigation, often dancing beneath the irrigation pivots as water rains down.

A starling is almost never alone. In Europe and America they form huge winter murmurations that have become a hit on Youtube. Starlings do almost everything in groups from sleeping to eating to bathing.  This keeps them safer from predators– though I did find one eaten by a Cooper’s Hawk in our garden last month. They also share food discoveries rather than try to protect any find from other starlings.  They successfully gang up on some woodpeckers and other competitors for food or nest holes.  They are one of the neighborhood gangs that can force their will on smaller or singular birds when a resource is scarce. When food and space are plentiful they do not waste time on aggression.  Unlike siskins, for example, they are perfectly content to share a puddle or pasture with Robins, blackbirds of all kinds, sparrows, meadowlarks, or whatever species happens to share the starlings’ taste in grub, or grubs.

Starlings are apt mimics.  Their vocal range is impressive.  Whistles, gurgles, clucks, melodic measures, mumbling—all are used where deemed appropriate by these speckled vocalists. A few weeks back I heard one giving the sharp call of a Jackdaw.  Now these naturalized European Starlings here in America have not heard a Jackdaw in many starling generations.  Yet somewhere in the birds’ DNA is encoded a set of tunes useful to mimics. Surely our starlings’ ancestors competed with Jackdaws around Neolithic stone monuments and castle keeps.  The Jackdaw is a small but social and aggressive Corvid, also a cavity nester, loving crevices in manmade stone piles of all sorts.  It would have been useful for starlings to be able to imitate this competitor.  To native American birds the Jackdaw call must just seem exotic.  Just this morning I heard a Golden Oriole song in our garden.  Again, it was a starling doing what comes with its heredity.  An Old World bird, the Golden Oriole’s song gave rise to its name; it’s a lilting, sweet whistle that says “orr—ee—ooool.”  Though scarce in England this oriole overlaps with European Starlings in Germany, France, and neighboring nations of northern Europe.

Starlings are quick to investigate.  I finally stuck tiny dowels into holes for perches onto my greasy suet logs.  Within two minutes after I got back inside the starlings were on a log and using those dowel perches.  A man appreciates an appreciative customer.

During warm months our town and nearby countryside must be a starling banquet. So my deal with the starlings is straightforward barter through the cold months.  I give them suet, they give me knowledge and pleasure.starl-bathHere are three starlings bathing in trickle of meltwater in the gutter of a city street near my home.  Others of the flock were on nearby lawn with Robins, foraging where the snow had the log before I added the dowel perches:star-feedstar-feed2 OTHER IMITATION HEARINGS, OR SIGHTINGS:

This from Zia Fukuda, a biologist in southern Oregon: “I heard a Swainson’s thrush that couldn’t have possibly been a Swainson’s thrush at this time of year.  After listening to the “weep” call several times, it was finally followed by more typical starling calls. I’ve also been fooled into thinking I have California quail here, but alas,  starlings again.”

Below, the Golden Oriole and the Jackdaw.  Both are slightly larger in body than a Scrub-Jay.  The Jackdaw is a colonial nester and does not migrate. The oriole is in an Old World family of birds with 29 species, none in America.golden-oriole1jackdaw_portrait

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